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Education

Sierra Leone Launches Program to Give 1.5 Million Children Free Education


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More than 1.5 million school children in Sierra Leone will enjoy a free quality school education when a new program launches in the country next month.

The flagship program is part of a new government initiative launched by President Julius Maada Bio, reported the Sierra Leone Telegraph.

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“This initiative by our Government will no doubt increase educational outcomes; and human resource capital will be strengthened to meet the growing social and technological revolution in a globalized world,” said Alpha Timbo, minister of basic and senior secondary education. “The waiver of fees for learning in any form will definitely ease the burden on parents and guardians, who are making a lot of sacrifices under extremely difficult economic conditions to see their children become educated.”

It is suggested that parents provide uniforms and some textbooks for their children, but the remainder of related admission, tuition, and examination fees are being covered by donor partners, including UK Aid, World Bank, Irish Aid, World Food Program, and UNICEF, according to the report.

“We are proud to be supporting the Government of Sierra Leone on this initiative,’ said Mary Hunt, head of office at DFID Sierra Leone, in an interview with the Telegraph. “I am really pleased to see the priority the government is giving to ensuring all children — girls, boys, those with disabilities — throughout the country access quality education.”

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Dr. Hamid El-Bashir, UNICEF representative in Sierra Leone, echoed that sentiment.

“This is a laudable initiative by the Government of Sierra Leone and the commitment shown in increasing education budget from 12 to 21%, will significantly increase access, improve quality and school completion in the coming years,” El-Bashir told the Telegraph.

The new president announced the introduction of free education for both primary and secondary school age children back in May as part of a campaign pledge, noted the Tribune.

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At the time, he also committed to a near doubling — from 11% to 20% — of the education sector’s annual budgetary allocation, according to the report.

Rated one of the poorest countries in the world, despite huge mineral and diamond deposits, half of the population in Sierra Leone over the age of 15 struggle with illiteracy, according to the most recent UNESCO report.